I am always interested to hear from friends overseas about how they access their diabetes supplies. In some places, discussions, negotiations and, it seems, arguments with insurance companies are required before product is delivered; in other places, people with diabetes require a prescription from their HCP to purchase consumables as well as medications. And, in other places, access is so limited and sporadic there are no processes in place to guarantee supply of the things we need to manage diabetes.

In Australia, the process is actually quite simple. A diagnosis of diabetes means that a person is eligible to be registered on the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS). Once registered, PWD can use the NDSS to access most diabetes (non-drug) consumables.

The supply of insulin (or other diabetes medication) here is part of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). A prescription is required from a doctor and that is taken to a pharmacy to be filled.

In my experiences, insulin is not always kept in stock, so I make sure to call ahead and have it ordered in for me. Most people with diabetes I know do the same thing – many have been caught out thinking that we could simply show up, hand over our prescription and be given the insulin (after being warned about how it needs to go into the fridge NOW – RIGHT NOW).

The NDSS is an initiative of the Australian Government. Diabetes Australia has, for the last 28 years, administered all aspects of the NDSS, which apart from product supply and delivery also includes information and support services for people registered on the Scheme.

When I need BGL strips or pump supplies or needles, I can access whichever products I choose to use by either ordering over the phone, online, or at an NDSS outlet, which could be downstairs at work (see disclaimer), at a hospital, community health centre or, most commonly, a pharmacy.

Sounds easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, and for me, generally it is.

The NDSS rules and regulations are all set out by the Department of Health and then carried out by those actually distributing products. It’s for that reason that there are limits on the quantity of product you can purchase in one hit. Again, I’ve not had a problem with that. I had a form filled in by my endo a number of years back that stated I use above the upper limit of strips. I am therefore able to order more than the 900 strips per 180 days that is standard. (For those doing the maths at home, that is five strips per day. This is what is recommended as a guide by many HCPs. Of course, diabetes does not operate to a guide, which is why there is the flexibility to order more if required.)

I have recently noticed quite a few people online complaining that they are having difficulty accessing the quantity of product they require.

So, what do you do if you have this problem? The first thing to do is to remember where the rules and regulations come from. Of course it is frustrating to be faced with someone telling you that you are unable to have as much product as you need – especially if you are ordering within the limits, but even if you are ordering outside of that quantity. But don’t shoot the messenger. A pharmacy assistant telling you that you can only order 180 days of strips or needles is just doing their job. (It’s a completely different issue if they are telling you that they will only give you one or two boxes – that is not okay!)

You can write directly to the NDSS or even better, to the Commonwealth Minister of Health. Be clear and concise about why you need to be able to order the quantity you require.

This is also the time to remember that your local member is there to serve you.

Remember that if you are writing to an MP, they may not have the understanding of diabetes that you do, so use generic terminology – and don’t use ‘diabetese’. Keep it simple and try not to get bogged down in detail.

If you believe that you are not able to access what you need – the actual product and/or the product in the quantity you require – there is something you can do about it. That something is not bitching and moaning on social media, by the way. It’s taking action and actually doing something that will result in change.

I have written before that there are going to be some changes in the next twelve months with NDSS product supply. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the subsidised scheme is under threat, however the changes will certainly mean that the way we have accessed diabetes supplies in the past will change.

FUN BIT! Disclaimer

I work for Diabetes Victoria and Diabetes Australia. The majority of the work I do is funded from the Registrant Support Services part of the NDSS. This is a different funding stream to Product Supply and Delivery.